I’ve had several interesting conversations as a result of my blog about Ornamental Iron in Mobile Alabama and my follow-up of Ornamental Iron in Knoxville. It seems some people have favorites, some people have favorite styles and I think I may have interested a few people in considering the addition of more to the downtown area.
Cynthia Moxley left a comment that she always enjoyed the front gate of the Old Gray Cemetery. It goes to show what we can overlook until we pay attention. I, of course, wrote a blog post last summer that paralleled, Pere Lachaise Cemetere in Paris and Old Gray Cemetery, which has some beautiful statuary. Since I wasn’t focused on ironwork, I walked through the gates and out again without ever seeing them. Cynthia is right, of course, they are lovely, as you can see.
Once I did start looking, I began noticing metalwork everywhere. I stopped by Old Gray to photograph the gate on my way to Raven Records which has opened on Central (more about it later this week) and parked in a lot behind the block which is surrounded by a more modernist version of an iron gate. I think it is composed primarily of bent rebar, which isn’t iron, but I found the modern twist on a metal fence pretty interesting.
Later that evening I thought I remembered that Karly Stribling had built iron railings for the front of her house in Fort Sanders. I got on Facebook and confirmed that she had indeed done so, but also that she had built gates for James Agee Park, which was ungated the last time I visited. So, the next morning I took the photographs included here. She designed and executed the construction of each of the pieces, including the welding if I understand correctly. It looks like the beautiful gates at the park are steel, while I think the rails are iron, but I could be wrong on both counts.
Meanwhile, Brian Pittman was patiently educating me on a couple or architectural details including what makes a gate beautiful. While I favor the more florid designs, he mentioned a personal favorite of his in Sequoyah Hills, which is a bit out of my usual beat, but I took the trip to see his favorite gate. Along the way I saw another I thought was beautiful.
When I found his gate I thought I must be mistaken. “It looks dated, like something from the fifties,” I told him. He replied, “The reason it’s beautiful is it’s simplicity but also because you aren’t impressed because it’s so ’50s….well considering it was done in the 20′s makes it quite ahead of it’s time. Someone who doesn’t know Frank Lloyd Wright might look at his work today and also not be impressed because it’s ‘kind of dated’. But what was so impressive about it was when he was in his stride doing these very horizontal houses with angular ornamentation if any, the rest of the world was still ordering Victorian architecture.”
He continued in reference to one of the ornate gates I’d shown him, saying it’s “. . . made up of parts ordered out of a catalog. They come pre-manufactured so all the ironsmith did was weld them together. That doesn’t impress me half as much as the gate made all by hand with nothing more than bar stock….even if it’s a simple design.” Which brings us back to local artisans like Karly.
The greatest thing about this blog is the education I receive from my readers. I appreciate each of you. What an amazingly talented, creative city full of people! It’s a good time to be alive and to be in Knoxville.